NATIONAL NEWS

Shortening of internet gambling future stuns Atlantic City casinos

Jun 28, 2023, 1:49 PM

People bask in the sun at the Atlantic City, N.J., beachfront, July 9, 2018. In a move made without...

People bask in the sun at the Atlantic City, N.J., beachfront, July 9, 2018. In a move made without public announcement or debate, a state Assembly panel on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, amended a bill that would have extended New Jersey's internet gambling law for another 10 years. shortening that time frame to just two years. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City’s casinos are trying to understand why New Jersey lawmakers plan to drastically shorten the length of time that internet gambling can continue to be conducted in the state.

In a move made without public announcement or debate, a state Assembly panel on Tuesday amended a bill that would have extended New Jersey’s internet gambling law, which was set to expire this year, for another 10 years. Instead, the panel shortened that time frame to just two years.

No explanation was given, and top Democratic leaders did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday. It is unclear when a final vote might be held.

There was some speculation among Atlantic City casino and political officials that the move might represent potential leverage over the city in terms of possibly raising the amount of gambling taxes collected by the state in the future. That rate is 8% on in-person winnings from gamblers at casinos, 13% for online sports betting, and 15% for internet gambling.

“We’re all trying to figure out what happened,” said Don Guardian, a Republican Assemblyman and former mayor of Atlantic City.

On Tuesday, Mark Giannantonio, president of Resorts casino and of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said the full 10-year extension originally provided for in the bill is crucial to the casinos’ ongoing operations.

“The reauthorization of the internet gaming bill for 10 years is vital to the continued success of the gaming industry in New Jersey and the programs that are supported by the taxes collected,” he said.

Guardian said the shortened time frame could devastate an industry that has been a rare success story in Atlantic City, whose online gambling operations take in more money than any of the other five states that offer it.

“No one is going to invest money in a company that has (an internet gambling identity) if you only have two more years,” Guardian said. “Those things cost money. This has been what’s helping keep Atlantic City alive.”

Since New Jersey began taking internet bets in November 2013, Atlantic City’s casinos and their online partners have won $6.29 billion from gamblers, according to the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s national trade group. That does not include money from online sports bets.

It was widely credited with helping Atlantic City’s casinos stay afloat during 3 1/2 months of shutdowns in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as in the lean months that followed the casinos reopening, as many gamblers remained wary of venturing out to crowded indoor spaces.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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Shortening of internet gambling future stuns Atlantic City casinos